Society of Saint Vincent de Paul of Des Moines

Breaking the Chain: The blight of the criminal justice system

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Project Summary

The majority of persons returning from incarceration are ill-equipped to break this cycle of catch-and-release because they lack the societal support of basic human services such as adequate housing, food, clothing, and identification. Furthermore, they do not have the education and workforce skills needed to be successful in the labor market. St . Vincent developed the IMMERSION Program to address, through an evidence-based model, an eight-component program encompassing solutions to the most pressing issues facing persons leaving incarceration. It is believed that in the next three years, the implementation of this multifaceted program throughout multiple sites in the United States and National will reduce the recidivism of the general returning population and provide a replication model for others to use moving forward. History indicates that incarceration is often generational, IMMERSION also works to change the culture within families to one of work, employment, and obeying the law.

Problem Statement

The IMMERSION Reentry Program has been designed by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul USA (SVdP) to serve as a continuous improvement national model reentry program focusing on the special needs and challenges of returning citizens – those returning to our communities from incarceration. This specific “at risk” group, “at risk” to re-offend, and their families, comprise about one-third of those neighbors in need that SVdP helps daily throughout the country in our efforts to provide a “helping hand” lift out of poverty. Recent statistics released from the National Bureau of Justice Statistics show that there is currently a 68% national 3-year recidivism rate. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, May 2018.)We believe that poverty is a term that is not only defined in terms of financial well-being, but also a term that can reflect a variety of conditions to include lack of spiritual and social well-being, lack of healthy relationships, lack of adequate support system, and lack of adequate access to resources needed to navigate the roadblocks to self-sufficiency.Our goal is to provide a welcoming network of support and wrap-around services to returning citizens and their families and loved ones in navigating the unique challenges they face, assisting them in accessing resources that may otherwise seem to be unavailable to those invested in a positive and productive return to their communities.While many Governmental, secular non-profits, and religious agencies also focus on reentry, few have the National reach, scope, and wrap-around services capacity that SVdP is capable of.

Solution Overview

The St. Vincent de Paul’s IMMERSION Reentry Program is a program focused on the successful reintegration of the returning citizen into the community to which they return. Success is measured in terms of rate of reincarceration (recidivism) after release while enrolled in the IMMERSION Reentry Program. The program focuses on eight (8) key components of Vincentian activities identified as critical to the returning citizens’ successful transition: mentorship, employment, 72 hours transitional programming, community partnerships, education-Vincentians and volunteers, education returning citizens and their families and loved ones, advocacy and housing. The program also relies heavily on a self-sufficiency assessment and progress measurement tool in evaluating program effectiveness. A strong emphasis will initially be in securing stable housing and living-wage employment, facilitating their development of self-efficacy.The impact of this program will grow intentionally and strategically over five years. We would start with existing 10 IMMERSION sites across the Nation, replicating the model and data collection methodology to expand to an international level through existing National and international St. Vincent de Paul sites. The scope of this work cannot be measured initially as the end goal is to change and improve family culture and behaviors.

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Project Funders

  • Catholic Campaign on Human Development 2016 - 2018
  • Porticus Foundation 2018 - 2019
  • HMRF 2016 - 2020

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